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Literature Study GuidesEast Of EdenPart 4 Chapters 51 53 Summary

East of Eden | Study Guide

John Steinbeck

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East of Eden | Part 4, Chapters 51–53 | Summary



Part 4, Chapter 51

Now sheriff, Horace Quinn calls a lawyer to his office to ascertain whether Kate's handwritten will is valid; the lawyer says it is. Horace shows the lawyer a photo Kate had taken of the lawyer at her place, duly upsetting the lawyer. Horace burns the entire packet of compromising photos, including the negatives, and gives the lawyer a list of people to inform that all photos have been destroyed.

Horace takes the will to Adam and tells him Kate killed herself; Adam weeps, asking if he should claim the body. Horace tells him he should find his son and tell him the truth about Kate. However, Aron is nowhere to be found, and Cal, coming off a terrible whisky binge, is surly and nasty, saying he doesn't know where Aron is. Adam begins to show signs of a brain bleed, but no one notices just then.

Lee takes Cal to task for being full of himself and enjoying the drama of his guilt. Aware Lee is correct, Cal tries to pull himself together. Adam stumbles in and shows Lee the card from Aron informing them of his enlistment. Adam is puzzled, for he does not know why Aron enlisted.

Part 4, Chapter 52

The next year of the war, 1917–18, sees particularly heavy casualties. Adam continues to be ill, losing feeling in his hand and having trouble with his eyes. Lee asks Cal to invite Abra to visit; she hasn't been to visit the Trasks since Aron left. Cal catches up with Abra, who has avoided him because he has been looking angry. She shares the postcard Aron sent her and says she no longer loves him because of his inability to accept reality—that there is no place for a reasonably normal existence in his fantasy world of good and evil. He cannot accept her as she is, and he fell to pieces on learning about Kate. Abra then tells Cal she has known about Kate for a long time and that she loves him because he is not good, as Abra claims she is not. Abra suspects trouble is brewing at the Bacon home, as Mr. Bacon, claiming illness, attempts to avoid the judge who keeps calling.

Part 4, Chapter 53

Abra visits Lee and tells him she loves him and wishes he were her father. Lee tries not to cry and gives her a jade button that belonged to his mother. Abra tells him she and Cal are going to collect azaleas together when they bloom.


Steinbeck uses Horace's character to show a balance between good and evil. Horace realizes as sheriff he has to pick his battles, and sometimes the results don't justify the means. He is not willing to initiate a string of suicides the photos might cause. The kindest thing Horace can do is burn them and let the men know the evidence is gone. However, the men will know Horace knows and this knowledge might mean the end of his career.

Adam's goodness again surfaces through his reaction to Kate's suicide, which is to call her "my poor darling." But it is Horace who has the most sensible attitude about the will. There is a lot of money, and to refuse it would be stupid. Horace is shocked Adam has kept this information from his son for so long. If Adam had told Aron long ago, he might have avoided the pain that will inevitably result by telling him now. In addition, it would have avoided the entire episode of his being taken to see his mother and possibly avoided his enlisting in the army. Yet Adam was protecting himself from shame as much as he was protecting Aron.

Abra's reaction to Cal is surprising to Cal, but not to observant readers. Cal gave no thought about how he seemed to Abra, angry and surly as he was. Also, Abra has already told Cal she is not good, though she is, in fact, good. She simply is not what her parents want her to be—their pretty little doll they can dress and tell what to do. Nor is she what Aron has created in his mind. When Abra finds out Cal does like her but is afraid of her, she lets down her guard. Abra has always been open about her love for people, which was a problem with Aron, but it is not a problem with Cal. Abra has felt rejected by Aron and her parents but feels accepted as she is with Cal.

Lee's lecture to Cal sums up the theme of the battle of good versus evil in that everyone has some of each, and it is up to each person to choose which to honor. Readers might note that Aron's decision to enlist is not so much prompted by a sense of patriotism or duty but more a means of escaping from the moral horror he has encountered and likely realizes is part of his inheritance. Cal is less guilt ridden, knowing Aron has made his own choices, but he also knows he has a responsibility to help Aron through the pain he is feeling. Cal and Aron have always had what Adam and Charles had to suffer to find out: the love of brother for brother, no matter what happens. This love is the missing piece Kate couldn't have. The Cain and Abel story is echoed again in Cal's version of Cain's famous question, ''Am I my brother's keeper?''

Abra and Lee's reaction to each other shows what father-daughter love can be when father and daughter allow each other to be themselves. Samuel Hamilton was a loving and understanding father, and Abra and Lee's relationship is certainly closer and more positive than her relationship with her biological father.

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